A Post-Christmas Story
January 28, 2011
I guess we're gonna have to get used to the idea that every time they do the "Holiday" ratings, all-Christmas stunting will dominate. It's confirmation of the obvious: in December, a large portion of the American public is thinking about Christmas, and the stations that tap into that win. If the listeners are in a holiday mood, playing "White Christmas" and "It's Beginning To Look a Lot Like Christmas" and "Christmas in Hollis" (does your average Lite FM play that in December? It should) is just tapping into what's -- JARGON ALERT -- "top-of-mind" with the listeners. You're thinking about buying presents and tree trimming and stringing the lights, and that music is the perfect soundtrack. Simple.
And then January rolls around and those stations tend to drop back into the pack. Turns out Christmas comes but once a year.
But talk radio doesn't have that limitation. You can ALWAYS talk about what's top-of-mind. There's not a moment in the year when talk hosts CAN'T be talking about what's on people's minds.
That doesn't, however, mean that the only thing that works is to talk about the hottest political and news topics, either. Sometimes, maybe even usually, what's top-of-mind with listeners in general is, simply, "I want to be entertained." (The full version is "my job sucks, there's a pile of unpaid bills on the kitchen table, this traffic isn't moving, I just want to laugh") And that's the opportunity for talk radio, and, by extension, all radio: Provide whatever addresses what's on people's minds at any given moment and you'll win. (It's your job to figure out where people's heads are at -- we'll discuss ways of doing that in another column)
The blessing AND curse is that, often, there's not one single thing -- no Christmas -- that's on a majority of minds. The blessing part is that it gives you a lot of options for topics. Even if every other talk station's talking about one thing, there's something else you can talk about. If they're national, you can go local. If they're on health care, you can talk taxes, or traffic, or Charlie Sheen. As long as it's something about which people are thinking, and talking, and caring, it's fair game. And even if it doesn't perform quite like Christmas music on Today's Lite Mix in December, it's how you can remain relevant and competitive every day of the year.
Some of you may be reading this week's column in a new location. Oh, we'll still be sending it out every week to e-mail subscribers as always, and you'll continue to find it in the Columns and News-Talk-Sports menus up at the top of AllAccess.com, but we'll be posting it in Net News as well, because... well, I'm not completely sure, to be honest, but it was explained to me and it all made sense at the time, and then I got busy and forgot the explanation. It's a good thing for the column, it seems, so let's go with that. Remember, it's in your e-mail, it's in Net News, it's on its own page... it's spreading, much like the titular organism in the noted 1958 documentary "The Blob," especially the part in which The Blob oozes through the movie theater projection booth windows. Unlike The Blob, however, one cannot stop The Letter by spraying it with a CO2 fire extinguisher. (Spoiler Alert! Oh, wait, that should have come before the spoiler. Sorry)
If you're reading this on AllAccess.com, you're just a click away from Talk Topics, the show prep column at All Access News-Talk-Sports -- that's under "Formats" up top in the menu, right there... no, to the left... a little more... there! -- and that's where you'll find hundreds of conversation starters, serious topics, and lame jokes. This week's examples: the trouble with Snowzilla, several stories involving public urination (one of which also involves Ashton Kutcher), the official status of Whoopie Pies, Walgreens beer, the msterious frozen dog, why full-service gyms are fading, a woman with a Master's Degree in the Beatles, a store with a particularly off-putting name, plus actual serious-like news items like how some federal agencies -- including the EPA -- were caught wasting energy (and money), the double-dip in home prices, how the foreclosure crisis has spread to churches, and the Rahm Emanuel ballot saga. Sports, too, from coaches getting fired to Herschel Walker talking comeback at 49, the UConn football donor who wants his money back, the anti-Semitism lawsuit against the Anaheim Ducks, and... say, there's a big game coming up a week from Sunday, isn't there? Yeah, we'll talk about that, too. And we're featuring "10 Questions With..." Florida-based talker Burnie Thompson, who's branching out from his base at WYOO in Panama City to statewide syndication. And you already know about the rest of All Access with complete industry coverage updated all day, plus columns, charts, job listings, and more.
Remember, you can keep up with everything on All Access' handy Twitter feeds, too, including Talk Topics at twitter.com/talktopics and Net News at twitter.com/allaccess. And you can get the All Access app for iPhone here or for Android here, both developed by jacAPPS. Unrelated to All Access, I have a few other outlets for non-radio writing, including pmsimon.com, twitter.com/pmsimon, and the latest addition, nerdist.com, where I'm writing about pop culture, tech stuff, and other geek-worthy topics.
Oh, yeah, and if you haven't seen it yet, click here to see the semi-viral video I posted of a rodent running in circles. Rabid? Crazy? You be the judge. I just took blurry cell phone video and posted it.
That little digression above about "The Blob" and the fire extinguisher leads me to mention one more thing, the result of my own recent experience: Make sure you have plenty of fire extinguishers handy in your home and office. And it's a great idea to keep boxes of baking soda handy for that purpose, too -- if you're dealing with an electrical fire, and there's no fire extinguisher around, dumping a box of baking soda on it is the best option you have. I know this just turned into a PSA, and it's taking the place of the usual closing joke, but I'm serious. Know what to do when you see flames. The more prepared you are, the quicker you can get the situation under control. That's a good thing.
Perry Michael Simon
All Access News-Talk-Sports